NUPENG set for strike, insists ministry diverting N621bn road fund

Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers on Sunday declared its support for the imminent industrial action by the Petroleum Tanker Drivers branch of NUPENG and announced that it had started mobilising members of the union for the sudden strike.

NUPENG also insisted that its investigations showed that officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing were currently diverting the N621bn provided by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited for the rehabilitation of 21 critical highways.

Although the works ministry denied the allegation, the union argued that roads’ rehabilitation pictures being brandished by the FMWH were photographs that were taken before the N621bn was approved.

They disclosed this in a statement jointly signed by the union’s President, Williams Akporeha, and General Secretary, Olawale Afolabi, adding that agreements reached on the matter with the government and other stakeholders in two separate meetings were not upheld.

The statement read in part, “These two meetings resulted into the signing of a communique indicating the readiness and willingness of NNPC to finance the rehabilitation of identified 21 critical roads at an estimated sum of N621bn through road infrastructure tax credit scheme.

“On the basis of this communique, the union suspended the intended industrial

action, but we were very clear in our statement, that should the spirit and letter of the agreement not fully implemented with focus on those jointly identified critical roads or attempt is made to divert the funds, the union will not give further warning to resume the intended actions.

“Unfortunately, our worst fear concerning the struggle is gradually unfolding with information coming out from reliable sources that some elements in the garbs of being state governments, officials of Ministry of Works and Housing and desperate politicians are already dipping their soiled hands into these funds and diverting them to roads already budgeted for and done since last year.”

NUPENG added, “The officials of the Ministry of Works and Housing are going around showing pictures of roads done in June and August 2021 to justify payment made from the N621bn which was approved in October 2021 for the identified 21 critical roads.

“We have our facts and figures, and we shall not be cowed into allowing the N621bn to go the same way other budgeted funds have gone.”

The union demanded the immediate halt to the further release of the fund until a competent monitoring and validation team comprising all stakeholders that signed the communique was formed.

It demanded that the pre-award pictures of the 21 identified roads be taken, which would be compared with pictures of post repairs/reconstruction.

“The N621bn was approved because of our demand and struggle, therefore, we owe our members and the general public the responsibility to ensure that every kobo of the approved fund is accounted for,” NUPENG stated.

It added, “Taxpayers’ money must be accounted for. We demand immediate review of transport freight rates to reflect the operational realities of the petroleum distribution value chain.

“For these critical issues, we have the mandate of the National Executive Council of the union to commence immediate mobilisation of all our members for resumption of our earlier suspended action.”

But the works ministry in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Boade Akinola, stated that the FMWH was committed to making sure that all the roads financed under the NNPC scheme were completed and delivered as scheduled.

The statement stated that the ministry’s Director of Highways, Construction and Rehabilitation, Folorunso Esan, disclosed this at the inspection of the ongoing dualisation of Suleja- Minna highway, Phase I and II; and the reconstruction of Lambata-Lapai-Bida road in Niger State.

The two highway projects are among the critical roads to be financed under the NNPC tax credit scheme, according to the statement.

“I am here to see that they have improved on their mobilisation and they are working,” Esan was quoted as saying.

He said adequate funds had been released to the contractors through the governance process established to ensure prompt delivery of the road projects, adding that no contractor had any reason not to deliver as scheduled.

The ministry explained that during the presentation of the symbolic cheque for the 21 roads by NNPC on December 21, 2020, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said a governance process was being put in place.

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